What is a Conservation Easement?
According to the Land Trust Alliance, a conservation easement is, simply put, a way to protect and conserve land. It's a legal agreement between a land owner and a land trust (or a government agency) that limits the land's uses permanently. A conservation easement allows the landowners to retain their ownership and property rights, while also keeping the land from being developed. Even when sold or passed down to a family member, conservation easements "run with the land," meaning that the limits will be kept in place no matter the owner, and enforced by the land trust.
People create conservation easements for many reasons (all achieved mainly through the simple preservation of land), and they can serve various purposes with varying degrees of restriction. You can apply the easement to only a portion of your property, or to all of it. Some easements may allow houses, some may allow no buildings at all. They are as individual as the owners themselves, able to be closely tailored, and this makes them a viable option for many situations.
What are the Benefits of Conservation Easements?
First and foremost, it preserves land in a time when development is rampant and ever-spreading. Conservation easements ensure that pockets of nature are kept from harm, and are beneficial not only to the landowner but the public as well, especially if they're used as parks or have valuable resources.
Another benefit to the landowner, and as an incentive to create conservation easements, is the eligibility for tax-deductions. If the land has potential for profitable development, then the owner is given a tax-deduction for choosing instead to protect their land. The deduction is the difference between the land value without an easement, and the land value with an easement.
Preserving green space, and being reimbursed for potential developmental profit, makes conservation easements an attractive choice to many landowners, and is creating a win-win mindset towards the conservation of our land and wildlife.